John Bidwell secured a State Normal School for Chico by donating a piece of his ranch as the initial site for the school. But his involvement in bringing a college to Chico goes back several years earlier.
In February 1880, when there was only one normal school in the state, in San Jose, Bidwell met with other interested members of the community to discuss bringing a teachers’ college to Chico. The committee adopted a resolution, which they presented to the legislature, requesting a branch school in Chico. Out of the subsequent discussion came a recommendation from the Assembly Committee on Education that five state normal schools be established at San Jose, Santa Rosa, Los Angeles, Nevada City, and Redding. (How did Chico get left out?)
A bill was put forward and defeated in 1881, although in that same year a normal school was established in Los Angeles. The idea was revived in 1883, but that bill too was defeated.
(Notice how the recommended cities reflect the balance of population in California at the time. It’s heavy on northern California, with only one site selected for southern California. Today about half of the 23 campuses of the California State University system (depending on where you draw the line) are in southern California.)
It wasn’t until 1887 that the state legislature decided to establish a new normal school, to be located “in some county north of the city of Marysville.” John Bidwell was determined to get the school for Chico.
Next: How Chico Won the College